What Is Real?

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“All is a Question of Voices” (Samuel Beckett)

I don’t know what is real. I know only stories. Reality itself is obscured behind an interpretive film. But if there was a way to remove these perceptual “cataracts” I’d blind myself, because I can’t make sense of reality without a story. Story and reality are impossible to separate. But I need to find a way to distinguish them. Otherwise I’m delusional. And this delusion has real and deadly consequences.

Stories create every objective thing and Other I encounter. Nations and races, for example, are highly selective distinctions that settle over the world like transparencies over a drawing. And when these fictional separations are conflated with reality, real national and racial divisions erupt. These divisions are not facts of nature, but what physicist David Bohm called “artifacts” of the story, of my own imagination.

There’s something electrifying here. Against a fact of nature I’m helpless. But my own agency is revealed in artifacts of the imagination. It suggests that much of what passes for human nature, including aggression between groups, is not inevitable.

Or as Bohm said:

“If one approaches another man with a fixed ‘theory’ about him as an ‘enemy’ against whom one must defend oneself, he will respond similarly, and thus one’s ‘theory’ will apparently be confirmed by experience. Similarly, nature will respond in accordance with the theory with which it is approached. Thus, in ancient times, men thought plagues were inevitable, and this thought helped make them behave in such a way as to propagate the conditions responsible for their spread.”

In the same sense, stories compel corporations to destroy the earth as if it were an inanimate Other. And they compel nations to bomb one another. Racism, war and planetary destruction are consequences of stories falsely premised on the separation of “I” (or “we”) and Other.

But I don’t think a more inclusive “All” or “Royal We” would resolve this problem. Even the broadest perspective is limited, no closer to an unlimited reality. These limitations are inevitable and possess no inherent danger. The danger lies in conflating these perspectives with reality, because then perception gets stuck in reductive delusions.

For instance, in unusual contexts (North Korea, perhaps), the shared ego of the “we” is taken literally, and a reductive unity is enforced, repressing the individual. Ordinarily, however, the “I” is conflated with reality. As a result, the personal point of view doesn’t dissolve in favor of wider perspectives when it might. And this is also reductive.

The “I”, the “we”, and even the “all” might present the impression of a wide diversity, but if they’re taken literally they create a communal discord. Together we shout, you can’t speak for me, and I can’t speak for you. Then even overwhelming evidence of climate change gets lost in the Babel of parallel echo chambers. And those who might hear universal harmonies within this babble are accused of flattening the world under one mansplaining dogmatism.

But these hints of harmony are there nevertheless; not as assertions of some unifying dogma, but in the illuminating manner in which all our dogmas fall short. The first hint of harmony is a shared bewilderment in facing the infinite dark; a bewilderment that morphs easily into wonder when the longing for certainty ends. Then we encounter what Jiddu Krishnamurti called a pathless land (what I’m tending to call a “negative geography”), where voices no longer clang competitively, insisting on settled truths. Now it’s our chorus of errant echoes which suggests an ever larger and wilder world.


The “I” Speaks of Unreality

However, that pathless land can look like Hell if the longing for certainty doesn’t end. When I was about four I started having hallucinatory fevers that sent me running in terror through the house. These unnerving experiences may explain why the question “what is real?” provoked a long panic, which started on a particular night at age thirteen. I didn’t ask the question. It found me and didn’t let go. The question interrupted my development and left me stranded in claustrophobic solipsism.

For a few years it became impossible to feel love or joy, because they were forms of reality I couldn’t trust, weightless and measureless, dissolving immediately into fetishes of memory. Only the most frightening thoughts were convincingly real. No soothing counter-argument carried that same certitude. And in my panic the images became increasingly terrifying, a waking nightmare.

The problem itself, however, seems foolish now because the search for a story that pins down reality is exactly what throttles it into something lifeless. Panic is a dog chasing its tail. Funny if I can see the whole dog, and not so funny if I’m caught up in the chase, looking for an answer. The resolution of that panic required no conclusive theory of what is real, only a sense of humor.

Sometimes laughter is a surrender to one’s own stupidity. “I had thought I could rely on knowledge,” Beckett said. “That I had to equip myself intellectually. That day, it all collapsed. I wrote Molloy and the rest the day I understood my stupidity…. I caught a glimpse of the world I had to create to be able to breathe.”

When a suffocating story is surrendered, livelier connections can be made. But Beckett was also exposing a more insidious stupidity that fixates on the new story as a closer approximation to reality; as if I could rid myself of the last warped lens and apprehend reality in the flesh.

David Bohm called this “the almost universal habit of taking the content of our thought for ‘a description of the world as it is’.” It’s this deeper habit of Literalism I never broke. The panic subsided, but not that fretting voice, which is constantly trying to pin the world down.

And it’s oddly difficult to call attention to that Literalism. Because the concept of Literalism can easily be accepted as a literal truth, generating the very confusion it presumes to identify. And this suggests a new challenge for language and thought: Not merely to draw a better picture of reality. These would only harden into new dogmas. A story is needed that can dissolve the lie of Literalism that has perverted stories, theories, even knowledge itself, into something competitive and reductive.


A Voice Out of Balance: Over-emphasizing the Positive

Perhaps only someone with schizophrenia explicitly believes thoughts are identical with reality. But every morning optimists restore their myopic rose-tinted glasses; cynics their equally myopic ash-tinted ones. These don’t feel like stories, but realities, suggesting a Literalism operating beneath the level of explicit beliefs.

It’s a Literalism reflected in habits so “natural” they go unnoticed: The habit of positing opinions and theories as a means to rest assured; or the way the culture favors those who are positive, confident, and consistent in their beliefs; those who conflate their own prejudices with reality itself.

It’s the rare school, for instance, which leaves a student without an allegiance to some fixed position. Most schools teach only a short-term open-mindedness in order to gain, in the end, conclusive confidence in what is “real.” Few schools help students discover a more ineffable confidence in uncertainty, in remaining alert to where conclusions diverge from reality.

But Literalism makes that kind of critical awareness seem indecisive and slow (even though it’s the conclusive answer that stupefies intelligence around a singular point of view). It fosters the illusion of progressing towards closer depictions of reality, which draws a line in the sand between my “reality” and your competing “opinion.” This line doesn’t evolve into something less oppositional. Alliances and treaties become more sophisticated, but competitive thinking remains rooted in place. Hence, there’s progress, but only along a line of thinking that approaches an infinite limit.

This “infinite limit” describes what can’t be reached by story, theory, thought, assertion, estimation, assumption, knowledge, image and language, etc. Every means by which we’ve come to know the world — this whole positive movement of consciousness — has reached a limit.

However, language can affect change at the point of origin of action. And it’s impossible to live without stories. But stories can only be coherent up to a point. It’s that point of incoherence which also identifies the extent of coherence. Coherence and incoherence are inseparable: If awareness of incoherence is repressed, then nothing is coherent, and I operate in a black box impervious to reality.

And that tends to be the case. I think humanity has always been a little too gullible to handle thought intelligently. Critical awareness has never been fully realized. And now the delusions of an excessively positive thought have been magnified by technology. This magnified Literalism has turned story-telling into something dogmatic. And it has placed a subtle ban on the negative potential of language to draw attention to its own limits.

A negative potential has to be activated in two ways: First, language has to find a way to flush thought from its fixed positions, stirring questions to life rather than answering them. And second, necessary positive assertion has to be balanced by “negative awareness”[i] of that tendency towards dogma.


A Negative Voice

I’ll use some homemade jargon to highlight certain qualities of thought that otherwise go unnoticed. Once these qualities are noticed the jargon can be forgotten or used sparingly.

Here’s a negative observation: The thought is not the thing” (Korzybski). Here, an old, settled certainty about perception gets shoved off its perch, suggesting broader implications.

Here’s another: “the thinker is the thought” (Krishnamurti). This statement might be positive in structure, but it still has a negative effect. It notes that both the image of ourselves (the thought), and the sense of a “real me” who is doing the thinking, are both projections. It doesn’t assert who I “really” am, but says “I’m not who I think I am,” leaving the question of what it means to be in suspension.

In other words, I can only distinguish a negative observation from a tendency towards dogma by noticing the effect, not the structure, of a statement. A positive assertion (even a negatively structured one, such as “Foreigners have no rights!”) has the effect of closing the mind with a dogma. A negative observation opens the mind, even if the structure is assertive.

Negative thinking is needed to root out fixed positions hidden in the “transparency” of everyday thinking. But negative observations are rare in a culture relentlessly defining staked positions. Sometimes, the poetic voice can flush this Literalism from its hidden perch. But it’s also necessary to speak logically, scientifically and above all prosaically in ways that don’t strain towards conclusive certainty.

Beckett, Krishnamurti and Bohm were rare examples of people who flushed Literalism from prosaic hiding places.[ii] But they’re undervalued for this, because the culture isn’t negatively aware, or fluent in reading negatively. And this brings to mind a poem by Wislawa Szymborska:

The Three Oddest Words

When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.

When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.

When I pronounce the word Nothing,
I make something no nonbeing can hold.

“Odd words” are easiest to read negatively. Here, the word Silence is not silence. Is it possible to know the meaning of Silence if it only generates the noise of memory, or a verbal definition such as “the absence of sound”? These are just more sounds. Every image and concept of Silence generates an illusion of comprehension.

Even if this realization is fleeting, the implications are significant. If energy and attention are given to this, then thought encounters a limit and stops short, but not intelligence. The inability to “know” silence — that loss for words – generates the “real thing,” and it’s a response of insight.

Ironically, the word ends up playing a backdoor role in this brief discovery of an unnamable reality, not by positively delivering a new meaning, but by encountering its own absence of meaning and self-negating. Read negatively, odd words are an event horizon, opening a hole in language, through which an intelligence independent of language and thought can manifest.

Truth, God, Nation, Reality and Self are examples of odd words. They posit what can’t be known, encouraging a delusion of omniscience. In fact, a culture in denial of limits obtains a vocabulary top-heavy with words that lure perception into convictions that have no reality (apart from the artifacts of those convictions).

A negative reading loosens the stranglehold Literalism has on the imagination, freeing stories to describe larger worlds. But a literal society denigrates story-telling as something childish. And stories are dangerous if read literally.


The Power and Necessity of a Positive Voice

Literalism is the danger, not storytelling. Stories are simply part of the body’s repertoire of movements, like walking or breathing. They predict, but they also conjure energies, materials and creative capacities from an infinite potential, or from what Bohm called “the implicate order.”

Scientists might cringe, but electrical or nuclear power could be described as hidden forces charmed into being by the magical formulas of math. These invocations isolate attributes of an undifferentiated whole, giving these forces an independent existence and practical purpose they never had.

Almost every object of human desire has been conjured by subtle “turns of phrase” (whether mathematical, chemical/symbolic, linguistic or imagistic). And without these “charms” survival would be impossible.

But this magical power can also bewitch perception. The scientist is bewitched into a materialist vision; the salesperson thinks everyone is selling something. We’re subjected to the will of stories that are believed to be real. And the more effective a story becomes, the more strenuously its fictional nature is denied. And this denial poisons the storyteller with dogmatic resistance to error.


A Coherent, Positive Voice

However, I get premonitions of a friendlier relationship to error in metaphors. Being inconclusive and suggestive, metaphors aren’t easily conflated with reality. If I do conflate one, then I’m being literal again. And if it’s possible to take a metaphor literally then a metaphor isn’t merely a figure of speech, but a state of mind.

This state of mind is what some call “serious play”, where thoughts — even coherent ones — aren’t conflated with the thing itself. That slack – that error – is what piques the interest. Error is how reality makes itself known. It’s a ceaseless trade wind of correction. The same wind that blows apart a sand Mandala knocks me free from one certainty after another. Embracing this, theories no longer strain to be perfect. (A “perfect answer” would put an end to learning). Learning requires riding that current of error, not fighting it. So stories flex and shift like sails, catching whispers of larger worlds. Now the wind exceeding the sail is beautiful.

So when a positive thought is coherent, there’s a dynamic equilibrium of validity and limits to validity (positive inventiveness and negative awareness). The negative and positive here aren’t two separate forces badgering one another into compromise. Instead, it’s what Bohm might have called a “proprioceptive” element in assertion itself; simultaneously noticing “the false in the true and the true in the false,” as Krishnamurti phrased it.

Coherent thought drifts with the negative current of the universe, forming new visions from the disintegration of older ones. Inventiveness isn’t the primary drive. It’s the corrective jolt that electrifies the spine – that collision with uncertainty, when a story’s veracity wavers, suggesting an unfathomable “more.”

This means a coherent vision is never static. There’s a continual shifting of images (like sails), which requires constantly surrendering what feels real. This makes lateral learning possible – the embrace of wider perspectives. It allows science and poetry, for example, to co-exist as alternate universes, harmonizing in different melodies.

Lateral learning can free perception from particular dogmas, but it does nothing to prevent a new (perhaps wider) perception from being taken literally again. That’s why coherence doesn’t last. While this hidden Literalism remains in place, even the broadest metaphor eventually ends in a more positive conviction. To expose that deeper Literalism, a more penetrating negative observation is needed first.

[See mental map of how positive and negative awareness relate: Language_and_Image] or More complex alternative

 

Korsakov’s Voice: Resisting Error

But exposing Literalism throws doubt on everything, including myself. Literalism lingers because the Self is fiercely defended as a fact of nature. That “ghost in the machine” is the only supernatural specter still thriving in the age of science. And it’s impossible to realize the deeper error of Literalism while the story of Self remains immune from critical inquiry.

However I’m not positing a competing metaphysics claiming that the Self is unreal. I’m only saying that Self is an “odd word” that deflects attention to a fiction. If there’s a reality beyond this fiction it can’t be determined positively. Setting aside metaphysical conjecture, what’s the effect of taking this Self literally?

The effect is a lost friendship with error. Because as long as the “I” feels non-fictional it presents itself as the only stable raft in a sea of unpredictability (no longer an unfathomable and inviting “more”). Then almost all creative energy gets diverted into keeping that Self from sinking; avoiding the “harm” of embarrassing revelation.

In effect, too much honesty seems to threaten the “authenticity” of Self. And repressed negative awareness of inauthenticity shadows perception as a pang of conscience. This pang elicits the internal voice, which flees the situation by inventive tactics of dissociation, exaggerated here for carity: “There I go again, spilling juice all over myself!” Here the “I” gets blamed, allowing the voice to identify with the innocent victim (“myself”). Or it dissociates by falsifying its memory: “I would never tell a lie!”

Consider the absurdity of talking to oneself (to no one). This can only alter the image, which is the immediate memory. It’s an attempt to silence a previous utterance. It’s like hollering “shut up!” at one’s own echoes. And the voice can’t stop because this is how it sustains the illusion of authenticity; by pointedly contrasting itself from those echoes. That’s why there’s an endless dethronement of old voices by new ones; they “…dare not be silent for long, the whole fabrication might collapse.”[iii]

Call this Selving — a continual eruption of new personas, each claiming to be the one authentic voice that has always been there, but drowned out by previous incarnations, which is what Beckett brought out so hilariously (and what Krishnamurti and Bohm decoded so well):

“All these Murphys, Molloys and Malones do not fool me. They have made me waste my time, suffer for nothing, speak of them when (in order to stop speaking) I should have spoken of me and of me alone. But I just said I have spoken of me, am speaking of me. I don’t care a curse what I just said. It is now I shall speak of me, for the first time” (Beckett).

But of course that “me” also turns out to be an imposter, forcing the voice to fly towards the red herring of yet another “real” Self, and away from a trailing history of false Selves. It’s a dog chasing its tail, a rake handle/head collision. And there’s no greater comic relief than recognizing one’s inner demons as fools on the level of Curly, Moe and Larry. As Beckett said, “they’ll never get the better of my stupidity.”

On a microscopic level it becomes almost impossible to distinguish this everyday process of Selving from “Korsakov’s psychosis”, as described below by Oliver Sachs in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

“[Korsakov’s psychosis is] an almost frenzied confabulatory delirium … continually creating a world and self, to replace what was continually being forgotten and lost. Such a frenzy may call forth quite brilliant powers of invention and fancy—a veritable confabulatory genius—for such a patient must literally make himself (and his world) up every moment. We have, each of us, a life-story, an inner narrative—whose continuity, whose sense, is our lives. It might be said that each of us constructs and lives, a ‘narrative’, and that this narrative is us, our identities.”

However, the continuous self-narrative that Sachs associates with a healthy identity is no less frenzied and compulsive in its re-inventions of Self than Korsakov’s. The only essential functional difference between Korsakov’s psychosis and the typical inner voice is that Korsakov’s patients have only short term memory, and are thereby forced to perpetually invent a long term history from scratch; whereas practitioners of everday Selving falsify their short term memories in order to cling to a fictional long term history. I’m not saying they’re the same, but Literalism seems to hamper perception much like some forms of aphasia.


A Problem-Solving Voice

If resistance to error results in a voice with “Korsokovian” symptoms, then it might be better to face error and solve it, which means not immediately seek a way past error. After all, Einstein supposedly said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” This means clearing away false perceptions of the problem. And out of a fuller appreciation of the problem solutions emerge.

But compare that with what Krishnamurti often said: “The problem is the important thing, and not the answer.” Here not even “five minutes” are spent looking for answers. “If we look for an answer, we will find it; but the problem will persist, for the answer is irrelevant to the problem.” The answer is irrelevant because “the answer is not separate from the problem.”

That subtle difference is significant. Einstein was talking about material problems (the nature of gravity, for example), as well as material artifacts of thinking (such as climate change). New ways of thinking are needed. But material problems are objective enough to require a “five minute” top-down solution, apart from a change in stories.

Krishnamurti was talking about immaterial problems of Literalism. There’s no answer to Literalism that doesn’t inadvertently establish a new conviction. The answer is the problem.

In particular, however, he was talking about problems associated with taking a personal or communal Self literally. When that Self is threatened, no brutality is off limits in maintaining the fiction of country, creed, corporation or personal standing. These brutalities are justified as solutions to the “problem” of a loss of Self. Even atom bombs.

However, direct attacks don’t really endanger a Self, they strengthen it. The only real threat to Literalism is honesty; surrendering to that universal force of erosion, that relentless exposure of every fabrication. The Self fends off this threat by refusing to surrender.

The usual “solution” is to ignore or repress self-revelations; to be dishonest. But this dishonesty inevitably produces symptoms of self-doubt and self-defensiveness. So dishonest repression is also a futile “solution.”

So then one tries to solve these symptoms: Eliminate self-doubt; make America great again. But a successful solution improves self-confidence, re-establishing a more convincing fiction; thereby strengthening the lie of Literalism. Here, the solution IS the problem.[iv]

Read negatively, however, this is a game-stopping breakthrough, a reversal of despair. But it goes unnoticed in a culture hell-bent on seeking a way past the problem.

In misguided despair, the culture laments, “human nature is irresolvable” and spends all its energy looking for solutions to material symptoms of dishonesty: Poverty, hunger, climate change. All well and good, but futile.

It’s futile seeking a solution to the dishonesty of Literalism, or any of its social symptoms. It’s not possible to “solve” dishonesty. And this is the breakthrough: It doesn’t require a solution. Noticing dishonesty without resistance is honesty. Nothing more needs to be done. The answer is in the problem.


The Futile Voice

This describes how “futility” undergoes a radical reversal from a synonym for despair to a synonym for release. The problem itself demonstrates that the search for a positive answer is a dead end. Only then do larger horizons become visible that a Literal mentality had blocked. Hence, Beckett’s double-entendre: “And I said, with rapture, Here is something I can study all my life and never understand!”

Beckett seemed to undergo these reversals sentence by sentence, writing almost exclusively in double-entendres of despair and release: “There’s nothing to be done.” He didn’t write, “nothing can be done.” Instead, he wrote “nothing to be done,” which is open-ended enough to swivel from the despair of “nothing can be done” to the transformative discovery of “nothing needs to be done.”

This wasn’t fiction in the usual sense. The Unnamable wasn’t a story “about” futility and its reversal. It was the thing itself; a non-fictional collision with the fictions of identity, which consumed even the artifice of an author’s intention. That’s why he had no meaning in mind. Meaning would issue from the white-coated know-it-all of a “writer” who remains superior to the work. But it was the honest dummy in the wreck who did the writing.

On a strictly textual level, the voice kept fabricating stories about itself (attempts to solve the dishonesty of its previous fictions); and then exploding in self-deprecating double-entendres as it collided with the futility of these solutions. Every sentence, almost every clause, was a bathetic reversal from ‘nothing can be done’ to ‘nothing needs to be done.’

But if the book had ended in a happy reversal it would have ended in another lie of Literalism. The futility of the voice doesn’t end. A solution will never be found. Knowledge will never reflect reality. Error can’t be eliminated. What ends is the noisy anticipation of a solution, the dogged baying after conclusive answers.

The real genius of The Unnamable was not writing any deux ex machina to make fictional sense of a recurring futility. In the absence of any literary solution, readers encounter this futility as their own; an unnerving inability to find any answer to the ravings of their own voice; which is a godsend in reverse, because the answer is the problem. Surrendering the search for an answer dissolves the problem.

Krishnamurti also provided nothing but collisions with the futility of answers. The culture was not attuned to noticing the comic reversal this implied. It was like listening to a Beckett play, as one questioner after another sought Godot and came back empty. Krishnamurti was saying no matter how you approach it, Godot won’t arrive. The destination is an image that’s been conflated with reality; a story leading us down another blind alley.

It was a negative observation, without promissory metaphysics. And yet most ended up salivating in anticipation of the day when they’d realize Godot wouldn’t arrive; an absurdity he was annoying enough to point out.

The culture has no patience for this perpetual return to futility. But in fact, it’s the avoidance of futility that makes it impatient. That’s why it wants to find that solution or reach that destination. It wants to move on, even though “moving on” is precisely what creates the shadow of futility.  “Keep going, going on, call that going, call that on.”[v]

 

A Choir of Futile Voices

It’s this positive compulsion that lends a vicious spin to the macro-level hurricanes destroying the world. In CEOs and presidents, that compulsion is magnified. Their private desperation for status becomes the desperation of empire. There’s no other force holding this deadly culture in place except individual escapism.

Of course, these institutions of control have the power to kill individuals, but that’s a limited power, because if the individual ceases to exist, those institutions cease to exist. Their only real power resides in the individual’s subtle collusion in its myths (see Native American poet John Trudell on this). If there wasn’t any effort to become someone esteemed in these institutions (as an escape from futility), the enchantment of Literalism would be broken: Corporations wouldn’t be taken seriously as real “persons”; nations would be exposed as childish cartoons; armies would empty themselves. And revolutionary movements would be recognized as another turn in the futile chase. Nothing more needs to be done:

 “Krishnamurti: Is that the cause of this … confusion – introducing time as a means of becoming … more and more perfect, more and more evolved, more and more loving?

David Bohm: Certainly I think if we didn’t do that the whole structure would collapse.”

The one thing this “civilization” can’t survive is facing its own recurring futility. This exposes the myth of progress, which lures me and everyone I know into some form of collusion. But when I cease to run from futility, the world is already moving in a new direction.


Silence

Paul Watzlawick once said “the situation is hopeless, but not serious.” This neatly summarizes what I’m trying to say. We encounter a hopeless situation — thought engages in a futile escape from itself. But it’s too absurd to be a serious problem.

It’s too absurd to appropriate any reversal as some kind of personal growth and carry on. There’s no carrying on – “no psychological evolution.” The Self can’t evolve, because then it continues unchanged as a system of escape. It can only die.

This death is the birth of an authentic individual, freed from the subtle slavery of an historical image. Without that overbearing voice and its ever-failing pronoun (without that division between thinker and thought, Pozzo and Lucky), I no longer mind constantly falling from the high horse of a fictional Self.

That’s how Krishnamurti once described his point of view: “I don’t mind what happens.” And it’s what Beckett meant when he said “I wrote Molloy… the day I understood my stupidity.” It means not minding the fear, envy and violence of our voices, letting them mature to their full potential (reach their inevitable limit), and die.

“It is only in freedom the fact of envy reveals its colour, its shape, its depth, its peculiarities; if suppressed it will not reveal itself fully and freely… and as each fact is allowed to flower, in freedom, in its entirety, the conflict between the observer and the observed ceases; there is no longer the censor but only observation, only seeing. … The flowering of thought is the ending of thought; for only in death is there the new.”

This silence isn’t the absence of noise. It’s the absence of resistance to noise. I encountered this silence before, as a child, in ignorance of language. Then I learned to speak, conflating knowledge with reality; poisoned by that apple. My voice became compulsive, babbling at echoes. But now a way has been found to move among words without being enthralled by them, discovering a silence wider and more intelligent than language; as in this depiction of a return to the Garden from Beckett’s Molloy:

“… it was a night of listening, a night given to the faint soughing and sighing stirring at night in little pleasure gardens, the shy sabbath of leaves and petals and the air that eddies there as it does not in other places, where there is less constraint, and as it does not during the day, when there is more vigilance, and then something else that is not clear, being neither the air nor what it moves, perhaps the far unchanging noise the earth makes and which other noises cover, but not for long. For they do not account for that noise you hear when you really listen, when all seems hushed. And there was another noise, that of my life become the life of this garden as it rode the earth of deeps and wildernesses. Yes, there were times when I forgot not only who I was, but that I was, forgot to be.”

Literalism blinded all of us to the paradise of earth, not just me. We’re in harmony here. It’s not a personal problem, but a communal aphasia. We can’t evolve and lay personal claim to this pathless garden. We’ll never know what is real. But we can be real, we can come to terms with this limit, with our own death. We can loosen our grip on old assumptions of what is real, discovering a joy in not knowing who or what we are.

[i] All unattributed quotes are Krishnamurti’s.

[ii] I’m focusing less on David Bohm only because he did his greatest work in a positive direction, developing a theory that offers science a way to speak holistically.

[iii] From The Unnamable.

[iv] See Paul Watzlawick’s talk, “When the Solution is the Problem” (1987).

[v] From The Unnamable.

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9 thoughts on “What Is Real?

  1. I’m still improving the wording of some portions of this. Never-ending editing. The section on problem solving voice has been updated as of 24 Jan 2018

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